Saturday, September 25, 2010

Easy Pickles

When I was walking around the farmers market today I spied a pile of perfect Kirby cucumbers that needed to be made into bread & butter pickles.

Ingredients: 2 lbs of Kirby cucumbers, 2 small or 1 large sweet onion, 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon, 1.5 scant cups white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of  mustard seeds (you must use whole), 1/2 scant teaspoon of ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seeds (use 2 tablespoons of whole and 1/2 a tablespoon of powdered), 1/2 tablespoon of celery seeds.

Slice up the cucumbers into rounds.  Thinly slice the onion.  Mix the cukes & onion in a large bowl and then add in 1/2 cup kosher salt.  Mix well again.  Cover with ice and let sit out 2-3 hours on the counter top.

In a large saucepan heat together the spices, vinegar and sugar to a simmer.  Turn off heat and wait for your salted veggies to be done.  It might seem that you are not making enough of the pickling liquid, but trust me your are.

After the veggies are done sitting out drain them and add them to the pickling liquid.  Mix well.  Bring to a simmer.   Turn off heat and let cook.  Put the cucumbers into containers with lids and pour the liquid over the top.  Store in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

As always my spices always come from The Spice Station in Silverlake.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spicy Mac and Cheese Dinner

Ingredients: 2.5 cups of milk (whole or 2%), 4 tablespoons of butter, 4 tablespoons of flour, 4 ounces of grated pepper jack cheese, 2 cups of cooked pasta ( I used shells), 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, 2 cups of chopped broccoli, 1.5 cups of diced leftover chicken, 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese, spice blend, salt & pepper
My spice blend: 1 teaspoon each: aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper, hot paprika & black pepper.

Preheat Oven to 350 and spray a baking dish with oil or wipe down with butter.

Boil the pasta in salted water according to package directions and saute the mushrooms in a skillet with a little butter or olive oil.

Meanwhile start your Bechamel Sauce.  In a medium sauce pan melt down the butter until nice and foamy.

 While your butter is melting heat up your milk in the microwave or on the stove top almost to a boil.  Add your flour to the melted butter and whisk constantly.  When the flour-butter mix turns a nice sandy brown then start to add in your milk.

Keep whisking!  Bring the mix up to a boil and then turn down the heat to low.  Add in the shredded cheese & spice blend.  Whisk away - don't stop.  Your cheese sauce should be nice and thick now.  Keep stirring for a few minutes and then add in the cooked mushrooms.  Cook an additional 3 minutes.

Mix together your drained pasta, cheese sauce, chopped up chicken and broccoli.  Pour into a oven safe baking dish.  I used one of the round glass Pyrex dished that has a lid.  Mix together the Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese.

Bake for 1 hour at 350.

Making your own cheese sauce sounds a bit complicated but it's really not.  I got this in the oven in slightly less than 30 minutes.  If you are still freaked out by making your own bechamel you could cheat and used some canned cream of mushroom soup.  I'd still heat it up and melt in some cheese.

If you suck it up and learn out to make bechamel you can make so many other wonderful sauces.  It's one of the core sauces in French cuisine.  Besides, if you ever find your self home with just a little bit of milk, butter, flour and some cheese hunks left over in the fridge you are on your way to making some kick ass home mac and cheese.  Scour the freezer and pantry for some great additions.  I love adding crushed canned tomatoes or frozen peas to basic mac and cheese.  This is my go to dinner when I'm trying to raid the leftover's before I go grocery shopping again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients: 1 lb of sausage ( you can use turkey or soy if you want, I went with spicy Italian), 1.5 cups of cooked riced ( I cook mine is veggie stock for more flavor - feel free to use precooked or instant), 8 ounces of cubed Mozzerela, 4 large or 6 small bell peppers, 32 oz can of crushed tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese & red pepper flakes.

Brown the sausage until almost cooked through.  It's OK to leave a little pink since the dish is going in the oven for about an hour.

Cut the tops off the bell peppers and arrange in a deep baking dish with a cover.  Scrape out any extra seeds.

Mix the crumbled sausage with the rice and Mozzarella.  I use my hands so that I can break up any big pieces of sausage.

Pack the bell peppers full of the rice & sausage mix. 

Pour the crushed tomatoes over the top and around the sides.

Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red peppers on top.

Cook covered in the oven for about an hour at 350.  Remove the cover and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.

I served my stuffed peppers with steamed baby broccoli and some toasty fresh baguette.   Don't forget to pour some of the sauce over the top of the peppers.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Salmon Cakes

I love seafood and am always looking for a recipe that lets me sneak in ton's of veggies too.  This one is perfect!

Ingredients: 1 lb of salmon steak, olive oil, salt & black pepper, 1 small red onion, 3 ribs celery, 1 small red pepper, 1 small green pepper, 1/4 cup parsley, 3 green onions, 1/4 cup chives, 5 dashes Tabasco, 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup mayo, 2 large eggs beaten, & lots of bread crumbs ( I used panko, but you can use what you like) and of course your spice blend.  I used some salt, pepper, onion & garlic granules, celery seed and Aleppo pepper.  If you want to you can use Old Bay seasoning to your taste.

Heat a non stick pan over medium heat with a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Place the salmon steak skin side down and season the top with a little salt.  Cook until about 75% done.  The top will still be pink.
Flake the salmon steak and set in the fridge.
Rough chop all the veggies.
 Put the veggies in your food processor and pulse until finely chopped.   Do not puree.
In a large bowl mix together the veggies, flaked salmon, spice blend, mayo, and 2 beaten eggs.  Slowly start adding in your bread crumbs about 1/4 cup at a time until the mix holds together and you can form patties.  Refrigerate the mix for about 30 minutes prior to cooking to to help the patties stay together more easily.

Cook each fish cake in a nonstick pan with a little olive oil.  About 3 minutes and 30 seconds per side over medium heat.  Place the cooked fish cakes on an oven proof dish in a preheated 275 degree oven to keep warm until all are cooked through.

This recipe makes about 10-12 large fish cakes and up to 2 dozen mini cakes.  I served my cakes with a little lemon aioli, fresh corn on the cob, and steamed squashed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cakey Choco Cherry Cookies

Ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 5-6 tablespoons Dutch Cocoa, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 stick of butter, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of milk + about 2 tablespoons, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup of dried cherries

In the bowl of your food processor using the blade attachment pulse together all the dry ingredients.   Then add the chilled butter cut into cubes.  Next dump in the choco chips, vanilla extract, egg and milk.  Pulse several times to combine.  It will be very thick.  Dump into a bowl and add in the cherries.  Slowly add in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the cookie dough comes together.  You shouldn't need more than about 2 maybe 3 tablespoons of milk.

Spoon out decent size portions on a parchment lines cookies sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

 These cookies will not spread much on the pan and will be incredible cakey.  I think they go excellent with a super cold glass of milk.

Broccoli with Panko Bread Crumbs

Ingredients: Chopped Broccoli, 1/3-1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs, 1/3 cup olive oil, 4 cloves crushed garlic & spice blend.
Spice Blend: Salt, Lemon Pepper, Savory, Coriander, Garlic Granules & Onion Granules
I love spices and will change the amount depending on my mood.  For this dish I used 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon each of the other spices.  Adjust the blend to your taste.  

Steam the broccoli to your liking.  I usually go for about 8-10 minutes.  While the broccoli is cooking put your crushed garlic cloves in a small pinch bowl with the olive oil.

When there is about 2 minutes left on your broccoli eat the garlic infused olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Then bloom your spice blend in the oil for about 60-90 seconds.  You will smell it become very fragrant.  Then add the bread crumbs.  Toast the bread crumbs until lightly golden.  This will take about 2 minutes.

Drain the broccoli very well and return to a hot pan.  Cook off the excess water.  If you skip this step you will get soggy bread crumbs.   Add the toasted & fragrant bread crumbs to the cooked broccoli and toss to coast.  Serve warm.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tomato Meat Sauce in a Crock Pot

Ingredients:  Beef Short Ribs, (1) 28 ounce crushed tomatoes, 1 can tomato paste, a couple of fresh tomatoes, red wine, beef stock, 1 onion, garlic, salt & pepper, olive oil and spice blend.

Spice Blend: savory, oregano, garlic granules, onion granules, bay leaves, rosemary, salt & pepper.

In a large slow cooker crock place about  tablespoons of olive oil.  Then add in your Beef Short Ribs.  I used about 1 lbs of boneless short ribs.  If you are using bone in use about 2 lbs.  Season the ribs with salt & pepper.  Pour on top about 1 cup of beef stock and 1/2 cup of red wine. Add in about 1/2 of a finely chopped onion and several cloves of crushed garlic.  Cook on high for about 4-5 hours.

Once the meat is tender shred it and discard bones if necessary.  Pull out any super fatty pieces as well.  Add in the crushed tomatoes & tomato paste.  Peel and chop the fresh tomatoes and toss those in too.  Sprinkle spice blend over top.  Adjust the spices to your taste.  Simmer on low for another 2.5 hours.


Taste and adjust seasonings at this point.  If it's a little too thick add in a bit more beef stock.

Serve over Gnocchi.

Homemade Gnocchi and Tomato Sauce

I've wanted to make my own pasta for a while and decided to take the plunge with gnocchi.

Ingredients: Whole Russet Potatoes, Flour, Salt & Water.

Step One: Boil 2-3 Large Russet Potatoes in salted water until very tender.  Peel while still hot.  (Just use a thick kitchen towel to hold them so you don't burn yourself.)

Mash up the potatoes with fork or use a ricer.  Slowly add in flour until the dough just comes together.

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead together a few times adding more flour as you go if it feels a bit too sticky.

Form the dough into a couple of portions and roll each portion out into a long thin log.  Cut section off about every inch.   Form each dough piece into a football type shape.  Roll each gnocchi on the back of fork to get some nice indentations.  This will help the sauce stay put.

 Place the completed gnocchi on a floured piece of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet.  You can freeze them on the sheet for future use or just store them in the fridge until ready to cook.

Boil the gnocchi in salted water until they float and then for an extra minute after that.  Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

I made a rich meat sauce in my crock pot for this dish.

Apple & Sour Cream Fluffy Pancakes

Please throw away your Bisquick and make your own pancakes.  They are easy and wonderful.

Pancakes turn out best when you follow this basic ratio:  1 Large Egg, 1 Cup of  Flour, 1 Cup of Milk, 1 spoonful of white sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder.   Once you get this down you can start adding lots of delicious variations.

Apple Sour Cream Fluffy Pancakes:  1 egg; 1 cup flour; 1 cup of milk; 1 tablespoon of granulated white sugar; 1 teaspoon of baking powder; 1 grated apple (I went with a big green one); 1 big spoonful of light sour cream (around 2 tablespoons); dash of salt.

Wisk your dry ingredients together in one bowl and your wet ingredients together in a different one.  Combine your wet to your dry and whisk together.  Don't over mix.  You just want the ingredients to come together.  It's going to be lumpy & thick.

Pour onto a hot griddle greased with butter.  Pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles pop up on the uncooked side.

  I served mine with a bit of butter and some maple agave blended syrup.  These pancakes were light & fluffy.

Bacon, Gruyere & Potato Tart

This is delicious and addictive.  I ate two slices.

Ingredients:  Good quality thin sliced lean bacon trimmed of excess fat; 2 baking potatoes (russet); 1/2-1 cup of grated Gruyere cheese;  1 teaspoon savory & some  black pepper.  There is no added salt in this recipe.  The bacon & cheese had plenty.

Preheat Oven to 425 and get out a pie pan.

Arrange the bacon slices in a circle from the center of the pie pan going out.  leave the ends hanging over the edge of pan.

On top of the bacon create a layer of over lapping potato slices.  Make sure the slices are pretty thin.  I left the skin on mine, but you can peel yours if you like.
 On top of the potato layer sprinkle a bit of grated Gruyere cheese and season with 1/2 a teaspoon of savory and some black pepper.  Add another layer of potatoes, cheese and seasoning and top with a final layer of potatoes.

Wrap the bacon over the potatoes and bake in the oven at 425 for about 45-55 minutes.  The bacon should be crisp and the potatoes will be cooked fully through. 

Slice into wedges and serve.  I plated my tart up with a light salad of butter lettuce, radishes, cucumber & carrot.  I also made some steamed asparagus and broccoli & garlic toast.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Simple Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients: 1.5 cups of blueberries; 3 tablespoons of sugar or to taste; 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 cup of water.

Heat all the ingredients over medium low heat in a sauce pan until blueberries start to burst and give up their juice.  Mush them around a bit with a wooden spoon to help them along.   Simmer for a total of 15-20 minutes until the mixture thickens.

Strain through a fine mesh colander or sieve.   Let cool in the refridgerator and then pour over vanilla ice cream.  This would also be fantastic warm over buttermilk pancakes or stirred into plain yogurt.